Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bellator FC: Champions depart and 67 preview

It was a tale of two events for me last weekend. After belting out a 4-1 record with Bellator 66, I went 1-5 in the UFC 145 picks.

That said, I won both main events, so at least that's a plus. This week, there is only Bellator, so before I get into the picks, let me briefly give my thoughts on two of Bellator's main guys who just left.

Hector Lombard officially signed with the UFC this week, vacating the middleweight title he had held since he won the first middleweight tournament. Bellator opted not to match the UFC's offer, and now the 34-year-old Cuban will be most likely one or two wins from a shot at the World Middleweight Championship.

I appreciate how classy both sides were on this. Lombard never tried to hold Bellator up for money and simply left when his contract ran out. Likewise, BFC CEO Bjorn Rebney always talked up Lombard and expects him to be cemented as the best middleweight in the world soon.

With this season's middleweight tournament in its final, last season's winner Alexander Schlemenko will face the winner of this year's tournament to crown the new champion. In this sense, Bellator's tournament format worked well for them.

However, the welterweight division shows the weakness in the tournament format. Jay Hieron lost a controversial split decision in his welterweight title match loss to Ben Askren, but instead of getting a rematch to satisfy the fans, Rebney told Hieron he would have to earn another shot in the tournament.

I'm sorry. I love the tournament format a lot, but that is pretty ridiculous. I get that the weight classes are getting more frequent tournaments and the title picture cannot get backed up, but that is a tough one to swallow.

I am perfectly fine with Hieron buying out his own contract to get out of the company and try back with the UFC. Though I'd love a UFC ranking system, at least Dana White knows when a fight needs a rematch.

If Bellator wants to stay strong, there needs to be a way for a person to earn a title match without the tournament. That's all there is to that.

Anyway, rant over. Time for picks:

Lightweight bout: Michael Chandler (c) v. Akihiro Gono (non-title)

Why does this exist? Chandler has such a small-name feel already that putting him against an irrelevant fighter does nothing to increase his credibility.

Further, if he does lose, what does that say about Bellator's lightweights? The champion has nothing to gain and everything to lose here.

There's only one result here that would make sense and wouldn't make me wonder why I watch this company, so I take Chandler by 1st-round submission.

Welterweight Semifinals

David Rickels v. Karl Amoussou - Amoussou really impressed me last round and his judo is legit. Rickels is a great prospect, but lacks the raw power of the Frenchman. I'll take Amoussou by 2nd-round submission.

Ben Saunders v. Bryan Baker - This will be a night of early finishes. Saunders outclasses a lot of guys in this weight class in this company. His well-rounded game will overwhelm Baker and take him to the final on a 1st-round KO.

Rest of the Main Card

Heavyweights: Damian Grabowski v. David Huckuba - Grabowski uses his youth and BJJ background to score a 3rd-round submission.

Welterweights: Ryan Ford v. Luis Santos - I'm taking the undefeated BJJ prospect Santos to win this one by decision.

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